Debra Roberts with her grandson Darren

Throttle Therapy: Motorcycling, a family affair

Should young children ride as passengers on motorcycles? Our columnist ponders the question.

Should young children ride as passengers on motorcycles?

This is a question I have struggled with myself. Before I had children, the quick and easy answer was “No.” But then, before I had children, I was also an incredibly intuitive, smart, caring parent who never lost her temper, and whose offspring never cried.

When my daughter exploded into existence, all my arrogant knowing was gone, replaced with the humble realization that I knew nothing.

Admittedly, when I had her I was thrust headlong into parenting and my motorcycle fell into second place in my life. And it was a long gap between first (my daughter) and second passion. When we moved to Sooke, a vehicle moved from being a luxury to being a necessity. And wherever I went, she came with me. Which in turn meant that the bike gathered dust while I figured out how a back-facing car seat snapped in and out of place.

My daughter has been on the back of my motorcycle since her legs were long enough to reach the passenger pedals. This is one of the legal requirements of any passenger. So probably since she was four years old.

She is also fully geared up, with a full-face helmet, glasses, leather jacket, gloves, long pants, and boots that covered her ankles. In other words, she had to look just like me. Except her hair wasn’t long enough for two braids.

The practical dilemma here is that kids grow in leaps and bounds, and keeping a kid in gear is challenging and expensive. Being the frugal person I am, she was fully decked out in second-hand everything, except for the gloves and helmet. And trust me, it takes time to find all the right stuff, in more-or-less the right size.

The other item I bought new was a belt that went over my own riding jacket and had handles in the back. This would allow my daughter to hold on as her little four-year-old arms could not reach around my gorgeously mommy-sized waist.

My motorcycle also had to have a passenger backrest. That one requirement caused me to upgrade my machine.

Then, there was her list of rules.

  • No speaking to me when we were in motion.
  • No squiggling.
  • When we cornered, she learned to look over the side we were cornering.
  • When I patted her leg, she had to tap back.
  • She was always last on the bike and first off.
  • She wasn’t to go on or off without explicit permission from me.
  • When not riding, she wasn’t to touch the motorcycle. Ever.

And my list of rules.

  • Slow down.
  • Increase my following distance.
  • Slow down.
  • Perpetually ride in the slow lane when given the choice.
  • Slow down.
  • Never ride in the rain.
  • Slow down.
  • No aggressive riding.
  • Slow down.
  • No rapid acceleration.
  • Slow down, but without becoming a hazard.

Most of our travel is limited to short trips locally. I am still terrified of the prospect of subjecting us (especially her) to an accident. But I love the zen of riding. I love how the worries of life simply fade into nothingness. I love the perfection of the moment. My daughter loves riding too. She is nine now, and in need of a helmet upgrade. She is still only a “sometimes passenger.”

Sometimes I’d like to bubble-wrap my child, tuck her under the bed, and keep her safe from all of life’s nasty hazards. Besides being illegal, it would also rob her the joy of some of the finer pleasures in life. One of which is riding on a bike.

So, when she is with me, I have a heightened awareness, I expand my danger zone, and I have a list of rules that we both must follow.

And with those in place, we have fun.


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